More than a dozen gays and lesbians were arrested on Sunday as they voted in the Russian general election in which President Vladimir Putin, leader of the ruling United Russia party, urged the electorate to “vote for people you trust”.

“We were trying to vote,” said Moscow gay pride organiser Nikolai Alexeyev, speaking from the police station where he was detained.

“Men from the special services pushed us outside the polling station, put us in a bus and drove us to a police station.”

The group arrived at the polling station wanting to “protest collectively” against Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov – who was expected at the same polling station an hour later – and against all parties running in the legislative elections by spoiling their voting ballots.

There was no direct protest, Mr Alexeyev said. It was simply a matter of “spoiling” their ballot papers by writing “No to Homophobes” across their paper.

The police are reported to have suddenly broken into the voting station, arresting the LGBT activists who were quietly voting.

About five police buses could be seen around the voting station which usually serves as a school. In the actual voting room, music was being played.

Mayor Luzhkov has twice prevented gay pride events from being staged in Moscow, condemning them as a “work of Satan.”

Those arrested were detained for three hours at the Tverskoy police station in central Moscow, about 100 metres from City Hall and less the five minutes walk from Red Square. For hours, they were not given a reason for their detention.

An official from the Prosecution Dept. visited the Tverskoy police station in the afternoon.

He immediately ordered that those still detained to be released, indicating the maximum time permitted for detention in such a case was three hours, Mr. Alexeyev said by telephone.

Two weeks ago, a group of Russian gays and lesbians called for the LGBT community to vote in the election and to write of the ballot paper “No to homophobes” as a protest to the lack of human rights in the country for their community.

No political party took the LGBT issues into consideration and therefore the LGBT community should not support anyone, the group suggested.


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